Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

A few miles at a time reaches a goal April 9, 2017

bikeshoesGarminbottleSometimes our good intentions go….a little unplanned. For instance, I had plans to get up with the sun today, after a rainy, dreary week, to be on the bike trails so I could ride some good miles. However, those good intentions didn’t go as planned because I wrenched my back yesterday and could hardly move by the time I went to bed.

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So I woke up, iced my still hurting back, drank a cup of coffee and watched the beautiful sun rise in the clear, blue sky. And took some Motrin, rub a cream on my lower back and put on my biking clothes. I thought I could ‘just try it.’ If my back hurt too much on the bike, I promised myself I would stop. And instead of the planned 20-30 miles, I set a goal of five. Instead of the bike trail, I stayed closer to home in case it got too uncomfortable.

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You know what? My back felt great! I cruised through a new neighborhood I recently discovered, enjoying the early morning hour that kept the streets fairly quiet. My body felt so good that my Garmin registered 10 miles before I knew it. I decided not to push my luck and headed home. Off the bike, I was pretty sore so I showered, iced my back again, stretched, ran errands, ate lunch….and decided to head back out on the bike because my back was feeling a little better and had felt fine on the bike.

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So I rode another 10 miles. This time was a bit more difficult as the wind had kicked up Rubybikeso it took more energy and effort to get the miles done. But I did it. I got home, stretched my legs and back, iced my back. I relaxed, read some of my current book, talked with friends….and got back on my bike. This time I did stick with five miles! And admittedly, the five miles might have pushed my back a little too much. I’m pretty tight and sore tonight.

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But I’m proud that I was still able to hit my mileage goal. It was a good lesson of breaking down a larger goal into smaller, manageable goals. It was also a good reminder that we need to listen to our body as to what we’re able to do, be happy with what we can accomplish, and not beat ourselves up if we don’t quite hit the original goal.

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I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and accomplished whatever goal you set!

 

Riding into spring April 2, 2017

HHBike32017It was a long, physically tiring week. I pushed my leg (with a titanium rod) too much and the days of rain didn’t help. I felt exhausted enough that I assured my body a weekend of rest if I could get through it. And I had very good intentions to honor that assurance. Except then I didn’t. Because it was SO beautiful this weekend! Sunshine, warm temps, no rain, soft breezes. How can a nature lover be expected to stay indoors and not be active?? I needed some fresh air to clear my mind anyway.

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And Ruby needed some loving. Um, yes, Ruby my bike. It’s been a few weeks since we shared a ride so today seemed like a wonderful day to get fresh air, test Ruby’s gears, and stretch my legs. The great news is that despite my leg aching all week (I mostly blame this on the ongoing rain and chilly temps, not the heavy lifting), it felt fine while riding. No pain, no ache. And I didn’t completely beat myself up….I stuck with a shorter ride of 10 miles. I didn’t even wear my cycling shoes so there wouldn’t be any pressure on my leg when I unclipped from the pedal (although my brain must be wired to clip now when I ride Ruby because I caught myself doing the motions every time I came to a stop! I’m sure I looked funny to passing cars).

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I recently discovered a nearby neighborhood and school are great for biking. The school is empty on the weekend and has a large parking lot and straightaway so I like to do some loops as I practice higher speeds, turning quickly and clipping/unclippping (not today). The neighborhood is usually fairly low on traffic, which makes it safer for biking. It was wonderful to see so many people outside enjoying Michigan’s spring weather. Neighbors were doing yard work, children were playing basketball and riding bikes, dogs were lounging on the lawn. I love this time of year when people start venturing outdoors and become a community again.

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It’s supposed to rain again this week so I’ll be sure to give my body some rest time. As long as Mother Nature doesn’t change her mind……

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What fun activity did you enjoy this weekend?

 

Kicking off my best year ever January 2, 2017

hh_2017Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful start to this new year. I celebrated with some great friends and also reconnected with old friends.

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I’m excited and ready for 2017! As I wrote in my previous blog post, I’m keeping my goals simple yet personal. I already feel like I’m on the right path, especially in finding happiness and health. It was a beautiful sunny, not quite balmy but not quite bitter cold day yesterday, on January 1, the first day of the new year (my best year ever keep in mind!). So what did I do? Went on a bike ride of course! It seemed like the perfect start to this year that will be filled with fun and sunshine.

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It was a pretty easy decision to go on a ride. My road bike has been sitting sadly in the corner while it snowed, rained or was just blah winter weather outside. The snow melted enough that the roads were clear. The sun shone. The air was a crispy 37 degrees. But the outdoors and my bike beckoned. So I simply bundled up, pumped up my tires, charged the Garmin and headed out. Glorious decision. I caught myself smiling ear to ear by the end of the drive. Me, biking outside in Michigan on Jan. 1. So grateful. My plan had been a quick ride, maybe five miles, just to enjoy the fresh air and the feel of my muscles riding. Five miles turned to seven, then 10, then a little more.

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And the first day of my best year ever ended with my Detroit Lions making the playoffs. Okay, I know we didn’t win last night’s game, but let’s be thankful for what we have. And the Super Bowl hasn’t been decided yet!

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I welcomed 2017 with open arms and an open heart. I have big plans for this year. So far, it’s been a great start. How did you start the new year?

 

A few lessons from the bike November 27, 2016

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Let’s get this ride started!

I can’t believe I’m writing this but…..I went biking today. Outdoors. It’s the end of November in Michigan and I’m biking outdoors. I love it! The reason I’m so surprised is because usually by this time of year I’ve retired my bike for the season, exercising indoors until the snow and ice melt. But Mother Nature has been nice to us this year. The sun is shining and it’s a nippy 45 degrees.

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I physically pushed myself today so am feeling doubly happy for the bike ride. I first attended a cycling class this morning at the local Cyclebar (more on this experience at a later date). These classes are intense, sweaty and fun! An hour of this fast-paced spin class burns my legs, and usually causes my knee to be a bit tender. But I walked in with the mindset that I would be going on a bike ride later in the day. So when I got home from Cyclebar, I changed, made a quick protein-packed lunch, rested my knee for about 30 minutes, then headed out.

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On a previous walk, I discovered a neighborhood close to me that is fairly quiet with not much traffic. I headed here and was again pleased with the very few cars that I encountered. Once I clocked a few miles, my legs loosened up and my body felt good (I may have been numb from the cold? Ha). For as tired as my legs had felt starting out, I oddly clocked some of my fastest miles. Maybe the cold motivated me. Or the simple pleasure of being on my bike.

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Some friends ask why I bike so much alone since I purchased my new road bike. For one thing, there has been great mental freedom and relaxation for me to bike alone. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, the strength of my cancer-surviving body, and clear my mind. It’s been a year filled with new challenges for me as I transition into a new chapter of life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happier in this new life, but I’ve still needed to let go of sadness and hurt, build my confidence, and think about the new paths I’ll be taking. Being outdoors helps me so much. However, I enjoy biking with others and also know I need to get used to biking in a group on longer and harder rides. I’ll get there. But since I bought my bike so late in the year/season, I feel it’s a great opportunity to get comfortable with my road bike and new pedals. I know I need to build confidence in myself and my ability to ride the bike – yes, it’s a physical comfort but ultimately for me, it’s a mental comfort.

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In biking alone the past few weeks, I’ve been able to pay close attention to my body and the bike. It’s been helpful to have this time to make adjustments and learn. For instance, here are a few lessons that I’ve recently learned:

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I am finally feeling comfortable with the new clip pedals, which is a great accomplishment as I didn’t think it would happen! I sometimes am startled to realize that I unclipped from the pedals without thinking as I come to a stop. And then I smile.

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I’ve discovered that I am much more comfortable turning right and taking tight right turns. I’m sure this is from being less confident in my left leg with the titanium rod and knee. So I found an empty parking lot and a cul-de-sac where I circled left again and again and again and….well, you get it. First, I circled with my left foot unclipped from the pedal in case I wobbled, then after about 20 circles, I clipped in and kept practicing. I feel pretty good about left turns now!

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I notice that I use my brakes too much on turns and downhill. I’m not talking about when I’m going really fast and need to slow down (because I’ve also learned that I need to have more confidence in my ability to be safe and fast), but kind of all the time. So today I made myself ignore the brakes a few times and, guess what? I survived the turns and the downhill ride on the way home.

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All of these lessons will add up to more confidence in myself, which will lead to more exciting times on my bike. And who knows? Maybe today wasn’t the last bike ride of the year for me. That thought excites me!

 

A weekend of hiking and biking November 13, 2016

stagenaturecenterbridge

Hiking in fall is the best!

Another good weekend for the outdoors is in the books! I spent quite a bit of time in the woods hiking at the local nature center trails, and then biking through one of my favorite parks (if you missed my recent post on my new road bike, check it out here). We were fortunate to have two nice days land on the weekend!

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Last week was a long one. Between some friends fighting cancer, another diagnosed with the stupid disease, work projects going awry and the presidential election results, my head was filled with emotions and thoughts that were leaving me weary. When I need to clear my head, my go-to places are outdoors in nature.

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I’m so tickled that Michigan’s mild temps continue to let me play outdoors. I’m usually forced indoors for activity once the weather gets crappy due to the titanium rod in my left leg. Can’t risk falling and injuring the leg. But the weather hasn’t been crappy, so I promise that I am enjoying every minute in the fresh air that I can add to my schedule!

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It’s been a while since I was in the woods. Since I bought my new road bike, I’ve been antsy to ride it to get comfortable. Plus it’s so much fun! But I do love hiking in nature so when I had a small window of time yesterday to get some outdoor exercise, I grabbed it and headed to the local nature trails. It was a bit breezy so my thought was that the tree coverage would block some of the wind. And, yes, that might have been the case…. a few weeks ago when there were leaves on the trees! Duh. The beautifully colored leaves filled the trails, but the wind wasn’t too bad once I got deeper into the woods. I used my hiking poles since the leaves can make the trails a bit slick. The nice thing about hiking this time of year and in the late afternoon when I went is that there weren’t many people on the trails. I saw a few of my deer friends (no pun intended!) and some wild turkeys, but otherwise it was quiet and peaceful. Just what I needed. Since the trail system at this nature center isn’t very extensive, I looped a few times to get some miles. I felt awesome when I left.

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hh_bike

Cheers to sun and fun!

This morning I woke again to sunshine. It was high-40s w hen I left my house for Stony Creek Metropark with my bike, but felt much warmer with the sunshine (and even warmer once I started riding against the wind!). Stony Creek in November is much different than in June. During the summer, the park is filled with people enjoying the beaches, boat rentals, hiking trails, bike routes, picnic tables, golf course and more. In November, the parking lots are sparsely filled and you encounter a fellow cyclist or walker every so often. It’s kind of perfect!

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Today I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about how fast I biked, how far I rode or anything but simply enjoying being on the bike. I didn’t want to set goals. I wanted to relax. And I did. Okay, I admit I turned on my Garmin and glanced at my speed and distance several times, maybe even saved the ride. But since I didn’t have a goal in mind, every mile was an accomplishment and good enough for today. At the end of my ride, I sat for a while in the sunshine, eyes closed, listening to the wind in the trees, feeling thankful for these moments.

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What are your go-to activities to clear your mind?

 

The freedom of my new bike November 11, 2016

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 8:56 am
Tags: , , , , ,

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I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to ride a bike. My sisters, friends and I rode bikes all the time during childhood. It was a wonderful way to have fun, get exercise, go somewhere without relying on our parents to drive us, and simply enjoy freedom around our town.

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bike

My new bike provides lots of fun!

I owned a pretty red bike with a banana seat when I was younger. I called her “Rose” and pretended she was my horse (this was before I started riding real horses!). I eventually grew into a 10-speed bike which was a dream because it meant I was old enough to bike alone to my friends’ houses. I spent HOURS on that bike during high school, riding all over my small hometown with friends. We had so much simple fun. I bought a mountain bike in college and loved the freedom it provided to get away from stresses of college life.

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Then came cancer when I was 21 and a senior at college. In between chemo treatments, I graduated from college and had surgery to replace my femur and knee with a titanium rod. It took nine weeks of intense physical therapy to remind my leg muscles how to walk again. Then more chemo. When treatment finally ended, I was anxious to resume normal activities. But that wouldn’t happen exactly as I’d hoped because of the need to be careful with the rod. Plus, not even two years after treatment I fell on ice at work, popping the glue that kept my rod in the remaining part of my femur. Another surgery sidelined me for 15 weeks as my bone grew around a custom rod, and my muscles and leg learned to walk yet again. So for a few years, I cautiously participated in activities that I deemed safe – walking, canoeing, weight training. I was bored out of my mind. I finally vented to my surgeon that I wasn’t active enough and missed my former activities such as riding horses and biking. He asked why I didn’t bike. I just assumed it was a ‘please do not attempt’ activity. He didn’t see a reason why I couldn’t ride a bike as long as I was cautious and did my best not to fall (note that this is always a goal of mine, two good legs or not; I have never been a daredevil cyclist.). I left his office with a newfound feeling of giddy anticipation and excitement.

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biketrail_fallcolors

Roads to explore while on a bike.

I soon found myself in a bike shop and promptly bought a hybrid mountain bike with all the shocks and comfort I could afford to provide added protection for my leg. And I rode my bike. It was thrilling! Nothing hurt from riding (uh, maybe my thighs that needed some serious exercise). So I rode miles and miles on my favorite trails. Over the years, I would see other cyclists fly by on road bikes that reminded me of my old high school bike. I have no idea why I thought those bikes wouldn’t work for me. I guess I wrongly listened to some people who assumed my leg couldn’t handle it or the clip pedals intimated me or some other reason I convinced myself of (the mental doubts are sometimes the hardest for me to overcome). Last year I stopped in a bike shop to inquire about a new road bike. I received helpful info but, alas, soon put the interest aside as other life stuff was happening.

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I can’t share my new bike story without telling about my summer trip to Iowa because it was the final push/inspiration. Earlier this year some friends talked about this bike event across Iowa that Team LIVESTRONG participates in. The Register’s Great Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) takes cyclists more than 400 miles across Iowa over seven days. Each day ends at a different town where huge campgrounds are erected, entertainment, food and drink are available, and you meet cool people. I was intrigued but that little voice in the back of my head said I probably couldn’t bike that many miles (such an annoying voice at times). So instead I made a plan to head to Iowa to meet up with my girlfriend to road trip with the team.

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It was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. First, the girl time was amazing – we laughed, shared stories, found adventures only we could together, laughed more. And not only did I reinforce some amazing friendships and make many new, but I was inspired. As the days progressed across Iowa, I listened to the team members’ personal stories and stories of stops along the road. I began to ponder how I might participate with the team in the future and designed a possible pitch to my surgeon. It was the last day that really added to my interest….after the bikers left camp, a small group of us finished packing and hit the road to meet the team. When we stopped for breakfast, I sat with another young adult cancer survivor who shared his story. We talked about overcoming physical limitations from cancer and our mutual frustrations at having these physical side effects at times slow us down when we don’t want to be slowed down! We also talked about the things that motivate us to move and overcome our side effects any way that we can. There was something in this conversation that really touched and motivated me.

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Cancer never leaves any of us who have been affected by this disease. I was reminded on this trip that I will never be alone on this journey. With more than 16 million cancer survivors in the United States, there is always someone to say, “I get it. I understand.” And while I wish none of us had to go through cancer, I’m grateful to have so many beside me.

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hh_bikebelleisle

So much fun!

When I returned home from Iowa, I made a decision to get that road bike and tell that doubting voice to take a nap. Helpful friends patiently answered a LOT of questions (and still do!). I received great customer service and information sharing at several local bike shops. I test rode numerous bikes to determine which provided the best comfort and reliability for my leg. And I finally opted for my Specialized Ruby Elite.

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Let me tell you what I like about Ruby (yes, I named her, although not very original). She’s light so I easily can carry her (which is awesome since I’m not supposed to carry heavy weight). She is fast and smooth. And she makes me feel alive. And proud of myself. It may sound silly but, if you haven’t faced a physical limitation (whether from cancer, another disease or injury), you may not understand the satisfied feeling of accomplishment when you overcome anxiety and push caution to the corner. I do that every time I hike a trail, climb a rock wall, attend a Zumba class, ride a bike.

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I’ve been trying to take advantage of every mild temperature day to bike. Last weekend, I set my alarm to make sure I was on the trail with the sun. It promised to be a beautiful Michigan fall morning – brisk yet sunny. I unloaded my bike from my car’s rack, slipped on my bike shoes, strapped on my helmet, looked at the empty trail in front of me (surrounded by pretty colored trees!) and pushed off. I smiled when I easily clipped my shoes into the pedal. And then everything else seemed to click. As the trail rolled in front of me, my bike felt smooth and…..like freedom. I felt free. Completely free. My head cleared, the endorphins kicked in, my heart strongly pumped. I couldn’t stop the smile spreading across my face. Slowly the anxiety slipped away as the miles increased. I practiced clipping in and out of the pedals. I caught up to and passed other bikers. I rode alongside another biker who gave some helpful tips. I biked my mileage goal, then added five more, then a few more…because I could. I didn’t want to stop. I eventually did of course. And I tucked this feeling of accomplishment and freedom into my heart and mind, to recall when I need a confidence boost in the future.

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Lots of people ride bikes, including lots of bone cancer survivors. So while I don’t consider myself any more special than any of those people, I count these small victories. Because they are victories for me. My biggest struggle with being a cancer survivor is the physical restrictions from the titanium rod in my femur, which in turn sometimes causes mental frustration and anxiety. Yes, I am incredibly grateful to have both of my own legs. I know the alternative so I appreciate that I had this option. I also know that I do more physically than some people who never had my surgery. But I’m human and can admit I sometimes get frustrated. Because I know before cancer I was able to do so much more. So biking 10, 20, 30+ miles on my new bike is a victory for me. Heck, getting up on a bike and pedaling a few feet is sometimes the best accomplishment of the day. I plan to enjoy every minute that I’m able to be ride my bike, hike in the woods, whatever I choose to do. I will enjoy every minute that I walk on my own two legs. For these are victories for me. And I choose to celebrate every little victory.

 

 
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